Exclusive breastfeeding for about the first six months of a baby’s life is best for baby, says the American Academy of Pediatrics, in a statement that reaffirms AAP policy.
The AAP wants parents to think of breastfeeding as not just a lifestyle choice, but as an investment in the short- and long-term health of their newborn.
Part of the pediatrician’s job is to encourage and support breastfeeding — as well as convey the health risks of choosing not to breastfeed. How can new parents find a breastfeeding-friendly pediatrician?
Laurie Jones, MD, IBCLC, one of the few pediatricians who is also a board certified lactation consultant, and a member of the Arizona Chapter of the AAP, developed a strong interest in breastfeeding after her daughter, now three, was born.
Things didn’t start out so well, says Jones, who says she almost quit on day 11. “I was a mess from exhaustion and pain and feeling like a failure. Nothing feels worse than not being able to feed your baby.”
But Jones was lucky — she found help from a skilled lactation consultant who she says “changed everything. My husband and my mother also gave me encouragement and support in those tough first weeks.”
Getting that breastfeeding relationship on track, says Jones, “changed my life and my career forever. I took steps to become a lactation consultant in the year and a half following her birth.”
In her pediatrics practice, Jones fills a gap that she thinks has been lacking—an understanding of the critical interaction between mother and infant as part of the physician’s complete care of the patient. “Watching the baby get on the breast and observing a feed is critical to assessing a newborn or infant. I don’t feel that I have completely examined an infant until I see the baby nursing.”
Jones says that the subject of breastfeeding has been lacking in medical education. She’s out to change that. One tool she uses is a new AAP breastfeeding curriculum. She teaches medical students and residents about breastfeeding techniques, and works with the St. Joseph’s Pediatrics Breastfeeding Clinic.
In her practice, Jones provides extra-long appointments for new moms who need help. Her practice encourages mothers to nurse in the waiting room and also during painful procedures such as vaccinations.
Jones says she discusses the nursing relationship at every well visit until the child or mother chooses to wean, and supports extended breastfeeding as recommended by the AAP, the Centers for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization.
“I love helping mothers get past breastfeeding hurdles, and seeing them reach their goals, says Jones. “Nothing makes me happier than to see a mother leave my office with her breastfeeding problem solved. I can relate to so many of the issues they are dealing with because of my own experience with my two kids. I feel like I am in the trenches with them!”
Jones says that parents should select a pediatrician who understands and supports breastfeeding and does not routinely supplement infants with formula. Ask in advance for a clear explanation of any medical reasons for giving formula.
What should an expectant mom ask a prospective pediatrician about breastfeeding? Tips from Laurie Jones, MD, IBCLC:
- How long do you recommend a child be breastfed?
- Do you routinely supplement breastfed babies?
- Do you have an IBCLC in your office?
- Do you have a resource list for breastfeeding help if I need it?
- Is anyone on your staff specially trained to help breastfeeding mothers?
- Do you encourage mothers to nurse in your waiting room?
- Do you have handouts or other support materials for breastfeeding mothers?
- Do you encourage mothers to nurse if they desire while the baby has shots or other procedures?
- When do you recommend solids be introduced?
- When do you recommend a child be weaned from breast milk?
- Do many of your patients reach the recommended 12 month mark for breast feeding?
- Do you use the 2010 CDC growth charts based on breastfed infants?
- Do you offer formula bags to your breastfeeding patients?
- Does the office display formula brochures or formula bags in the front office area or exam rooms?
- How do you feel about extended nursing and child-led weaning?
- What resources do you use to check if a drug is safe in breast milk?